Neeraj Chopra lived up to his growing reputation and created Asian Games history by bagging the gold for India in the javelin event. The last time India finished on the javelin podium at this level was at the 1982 Asian Games in New Delhi when Gurtej Singh had won the bronze. But Neeraj has proved that he is in a different class. His gold winning throw of 88.06m not only bettered his own national record but was also the sixth best throw of the season. With Neeraj now both the Asian and Commonwealth Games champion in the same year – a feat not achieved by an Indian athlete since Milkha Singh in 1958 – expectations of an Olympic medal from him in Tokyo 2020 will mount.
What’s interesting to note is that 20-year-old Neeraj appears to be one among a crop of young Indian athletes who have started to make their mark at the international level. At this Asian Games itself, we have had 18-year-old Hima Das and 23-year-old Muhammed Anas winning the silver in the women’s and men’s 400m respectively. Then 24-year-old Vinesh Phogat became the first Indian woman to win a wrestling gold at this level. And 16-year-old Saurabh Chaudhary won gold in the 10m air pistol event.
The success of these youngsters shows that India’s sporting system, despite many challenges, is delivering to some extent. Of course, this needs to be expanded further if we are to taste Olympic success. Nonetheless our Asian Games performance so far, particularly in track and field, does inspire confidence. Add to this help from initiatives like the Olympic Gold Quest – which helped shooter Rahi Sarnobat bag the gold in the 25m pistol event this time – and we are looking at promising talents breaking through at the acme of sports. But these efforts need to be sustained if the sporting green shoots are to convert into Olympic glory.
This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.
via TOI Blog
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